Madeleine McCann At The Leveson Inquiry: The Free Speech Debate
MADELEINE McCann: Kate and Gerry McCann has been addressing the Leveson Inquiry into media standards.
It’s front page news:
“Days of dignity for the McCanns”- Telegraph
“Lives are being harmed by these stories, says McCanns” – Guardian
“I was violated by the press says Kate McCann”- Times
“Tortured by the tabloids”- Indy
Kate McCann says he felt “totally violated” when the News of the World published excerpts from a private diary.
Madeleine McCann went missing on May 3, 2007. He case continues to make headline news.
Gerry McCann also spoke. He noted how the coverage turned from helpful to their search for their daughter to being negative against them.
The media coverage was all about watching the parents.
And, then, as Mr McCann says, the Portuguese police were made arguidos, a words that now needs no translation. The media feeding frenzy had flesh and bone to take hold of.
“We were being tried by the media and unable to defend ourselves.”
Kate McCann recalls that on Sunday 14 September 2008, a friend texted her the news:
“Saw your diary in the newspapers, heartbreaking. I hope you’re all right.”
Portuguese police seized the diary in August 2007.
Someone got hold of it and copied it. They then gave it to the News of The World, which published extracts from it. Who? Why? Where? How?
Once more the paper and the police were tight.
Says Kate McCann:
“I felt totally violated. I had written these words at the most desperate time of my life, and it was my only way of communicating with Madeleine. There was absolutely no respect shown for me as a grieving mother or a human being or to my daughter. It made me feel very vulnerable and small, and I just couldn’t believe it. It didn’t stop there. It’s not just a one-day thing. The whole week was incredibly traumatic and every time I thought about it, I just couldn’t believe the injustice.”
“I just recently read through my diary entries at that point in that week, and I talk about climbing into a hole and not coming out because I just felt so worthless that we had been treated like that.”
How did Daniel Sanderson get the words from Kate McCann’s diaries?
Gerry McCann adds that the media pursued them. Back in Rothley, Leicestershire, the media hunted in a pack:
“We were hemmed in the house for a couple of days before the police moved them to the end of our drive.”
Says Kate McCann:
“They would often wait for Gerry to go and would know I would have to come out the house at some point with the children.”
Photographers would take aim.
“(Madeleine’s younger sister) Amelie said to me several times ’Mummy, I’m scared’.”
Of the libellous stories, Mrs McCann said:
“We wanted to shout out ’It’s not true’, but when it’s your voice against a powerful media, there’s no point.”
The media wrong them. The McCanns sued Express Newspapers. And won.
Why? Says Kate McCann:
“…we felt it was our only course of action open to us at that point that would stop it”.
When confronted, she says Express Newspapers suggested the parents gave an interview to the news group’s OK! Magazine.
“With hindsight, I wish we had taken action earlier…. I have seen no individual journalist or editor brought to account over the stories.”
Indeed. Lori Campbell, for example, is still employed in the national press.
“I think if there are repeat offenders they should lose their privilege to practise as a journalist.”
Should journalist be struck off a list like, say, doctors?
“I would like to emphasise that I strongly believe in freedom of speech, but when you have people who are repeatedly carrying out inaccuracies and have been shown to do so, then they should be held to account.”
Goncalo Amaral may snort with derision at those words – the former Portuguese policeman argued for freedom of speech in his defence against the McCanns.
But what has been achieved by so much reporting?
The child is missing. Still missing. There are no suspects. Indeed, police have yet to prove what crime occurred, if any.